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Ford Sales Rise 7 Percent, Chevy Volt Sales Triple

DETROIT (AP) — From mini cars to monster pickups, sales of vehicles charged higher in June and eased concerns that Americans would be turned off by slower hiring and other scary headlines.

By midday Tuesday, most automakers reported big gains over June of last year. Chrysler posted its best June in five years. Sales surged at Volkswagen, which is on track for its best year in the U.S. since 1973.

The results appeared to allay fears that growth would stall after a strong start to 2012. Earlier this spring, sales were on track to reach 14.5 million this year, boosted by mild weather and the post-earthquake return of Japanese inventories. But the pace dropped to 13.8 million in May, as the stock market plunged and the government released weaker hiring numbers. In June, there was more bad news about hiring, and consumer confidence fell for the fourth straight month.

But carmakers said sales picked up the last week of June. New models like the Ford Escape and Dodge Dart — which both arrived in dealerships last month — helped draw out buyers. By early Tuesday, The Detroit Three all said they expected the sales rate to top 14 million.

“Despite a rising level of uncertainty with the economic recovery, consumers remain resilient in their willingness to purchase new vehicles,” said Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. Shuster is still expecting 2012 sales of 14.5 million.

For Chrysler, sales of the tiny Fiat 500 and Chrysler 300 large sedan more than doubled from a year earlier. General Motors’ sales rose 16 percent, helped by strong demand for the Chevy Malibu and Volt electric car.

Pickup truck sales grew stronger as home building perked up. Chrysler’s Ram pickup sales rose 12 percent and sales of the Ford F-Series — which has long been the country’s best-selling vehicle — rose 11 percent.

Ford’s overall sales rose 7 percent. The Escape small SUV posted its best month ever — rising 28 percent — after a new version of the popular vehicle arrived at dealerships. Ford said 40 percent of Escapes sold were new models, while the rest were heavily discounted older versions. Sales of the Ford Explorer SUV were also up 35 percent.

Shares of GM and Ford, which investors have beaten down lately over losses in Europe, rose Tuesday. Ford’s stock climbed 3.3 percent to $9.71, while GM’s stock jumped 6.5 percent to $20.84.
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